“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
I'm here in Anaheim California and I thought that this quote would be a great beginning to a post about how donor relations truly works best in an organization. I think it is essential, inextricable, vital that the donor focus start at the top. Not at the top of the donor pyramid, but at the top of the leadership pyramid of your organization. In order to revolutionize your organization's relationship with donors, the top must believe, and then you can fly.
I often come into organizations where someone along the great food chain has bought into the idea of donor relations and realizes the success they can have by forming proper donor relationships and putting donors at the center of what they do. The crucial point of the visit usually occurs when I meet the person in charge of the organization and ask their opinion on what it would be like to have ideal donor relations. If their eyes twinkle and the words, "it's not just the right thing to do, it's a privilege" come flowing freely, then I know we can go far. If they hesitate and hem and haw about process and procedure and the importance of "getting dollars in the door" then I know we have a bumpy road to travel.
You see, the mindset must be part of a culture. And more than a culture of philanthropy, a wonderful organization must have what I call an "attitude of gratitude". And folks, that starts at the top. Leaders who are willing to throw themselves into thanking donors, even those who haven't given millions, inspire me. And what they get out of it is multiplied, they see first hand that the simple act of gratitude can change their outlook, inspire good will and give them a glimpse into a philanthropist's heart. I am thrilled to say that these leaders far outnumber those who say, "I'll hire someone to do that touchy feely stuff."
So what's your goal in 2015? Maybe one of them should be to assess the culture of gratitude at your organization. Find out if people begrudgingly write thank you notes or if it's something they enjoy. It will tell you a great deal about where you're headed and how. I look to partner with people who "get it" and understand that gratitude is one of the best parts of our job. People often ask me how to know if someone will be a good fit for donor relations if they have no prior experience. I tell them easily, if the person has gratitude in their heart and is quick to express it, that's someone I want talking to donors. That's someone who believes.
Who believes at your organization? How do they allow you to fly? I look forward to hearing from you on how you assess the culture where you are. Happy new year and here's to a great 2015 in flight!